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Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent
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Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  552 ratings  ·  110 reviews
In this hard-hitting memoir, Fred Burton, a key figure in international counterterrorism and domestic spycraft, emerges from the shadows to reveal who he is, what he has accomplished, and the threats that lurk unseen except by an experienced, worldly-wise few. Plunging readers into the murky world of violent religious extremism that spans the streets of Middle Eastern citi ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2008)
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Resonance
Ghost had some interesting contents. For people who have read espionage 'nonfiction' there will be things everyone's read several times -- discussions of dead drops, brush passes, surveillance and evasion. There's a couple of intriguing passages that I haven't read anywhere else -- especially speculation about the death/assassination of Zia in Pakistan. And the book brings back a lot of memories about how we viewed terrorism in the 80s.

However, the book is short, and quite short on details, whi
...more
Stefanie
Where to begin with this book?

Fascinating content, candid description of how a the US counter-terrorism portion of the diplomatic service originally had 3 overworked agent, 2 of them fresh out of training. Interesting anecdotes about the writer's career.

However, two huge flaws:
(1) Cluttered writing
The author repeats himself ad nauseum - the type of warm jacket he wears, the car he drives, the fact that he sees the world as black and white and the nature of his work is shades of gray.

(2) No narra
...more
Cindy Barnett
Fred Burton, former spy & agent is very informative, touching, frightening & comforting. Reader, Tom Weiner, is clear, a rarity for deep voices. Recommended. ©2008
Carol
I read it all the way through because I'm really curious about the human equation in the world of the spook. I learned little of any depth, so don't expect an exposé. No depth of feeling or learning by the author.
Kerilotion
Interesting but hated the way it was written.. How many different ways can you say the same damn thing?!
Zach Vaughn
Fred Burton was a counterterrorism agent for the Diplomatic Security Service and was involved in investigating some of the worst acts of terrorism in U.S. history from 1986 to 1995.

In Ghost, he recounts three specific investigations: the Lebanon hostage crisis (later revealed as part of the Iran-Contra scandal), the bombing of PAK-1 which lead to the death of Pakistani President Zia, the Lockerbie bombing, and the hunt for Ramzi Yousef - mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and othe
...more
Mark Young
Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11 when we came under attack. That moment in history will never be forgotten. Everything changed for America—and the world—on that day. The devastation hurled upon us by nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists was an act of war. Tragically, counterterrorism experts around the world knew terrorists would try to strike like this. Agents also knew they might not be able stop it. They were right.

Most of us will never know how many times potential tragedies like the World
...more
Jerome
Author Fred Burton reveals the sinister realities of the global counterterrorism game in a very serious, readable, unpretentious way. The book is devoid of the ego-tripping and grandstanding that a lot of these memoirs suffer from (i.e. books like "Jawbreaker" etc.).

I wasn't expecting tales of hair-raising takedowns of terrorists in some Beirut slum or gun battles with Iranian agents in some Middle Eastern embassy, so if you're some ignorant film junkie who thinks that's what counterterrorism is
...more
Nathan
This book was fascinating. I never knew (probably because I was a kid) that Libya was such a threat to the US in the 80's. Very interesting to hear about the conflicts and attacks that continually popped up in the Middle East against the US. There was one chapter about India and Pakistan almost going to war when most of the Pakistani governing body died in a plane crash that I had never even heard about. The book is well written and gives a good overview of the DSS. (Special treat was near the e ...more
Christian Barraza
At first the premise for the book seemed appealing. Hearing about the life of a counterterrorism agent directly from the source seemed appealing. Like all books written by intelligence officers, it is understood that certain things just cannot be said or talked about for fear of it affecting current operations. This is a real story after all. Still, I jumped at the chance to read it not really sure what to expect. What I got was a bit dissapointing. It's intriguing to see what the author goes th ...more
Shannon
The information presented is interesting and Burton has worked some major cases, which is the only reason I scored the book it as highly as I did. However, Burton is not a good writer. He is a self-congratulatory cowboy who uses cutesy nicknames ("The Dark World" for anything spy-related, for example) that make it hard to take him seriously. He doesn't try to present a nuanced view of terrorism. The terrorists are all bad, he is ostensibly all good, and that's the end of it as far as he's concer ...more
Gonzalo
This is the first book i've read this summer, it's really interesting and it's a memoir by Fred Burton, who was recruited in the DSS and was assigned to it's counter-terrorism branch. Fred Burton at the time was surprised because counter-terrorism wasn't that big of a thing back then in the 70's but then as you read through the book you could see the growth of counter-terrorism and how the tactics used evolved. And you can also see Fred's expertise increases. You will see how both Fred Burton an ...more
Scott Wright
I loved it and would recommend. I don't read espionage non-fiction, so this was all new to me. I will grant that I grew tired hearing the name of his jacket and it dragged on long on the lose a tail scenes, but I loved the dialogs. Great story in a very quick glimpse. His life was interesting and I applaud him and his wife for sticking together and making it work when he was so often never home. I salute anyone that strives so hard to try and keep me safe and I don't even know it. Thank you.
JR
"On my morning run, my chocolate Lab, Tyler Beauregard sets the pace..."

"When you join the Dark World, you must become unpredictable. Erratic. We must strip away all the conventions of our old lives and fade into the background. We've been trained. We've practiced. Today, I begin my life as a ghost."

"Our instructors warned us the KGB opens a file on every one of us new agents as soon as we graduate..."

"The world needs more cops."

"Only three out of every hundred who start the training get to the
...more
David
This book is similar in tone to another book I just completed: The Art of Intelligence by Henry Crumpton. Both authors see the world they live in in black and white terms. There are good people and there are evil, and it's up to them to stop the evil ones. They are soldiers on the front line of the intelligence war on terror; Crumpton with the CIA and Fred Burton with the counter-terrorism unit at the US State Department. Both men view politicians and bureaucrats as being more interested in prot ...more
Michael
Nostalgic counter-terrorism memoir of a state department investigator during the late 80's (think Libya, Iran). Kind of sad, in a way, that this guy sacrificed every waking hour of his life and probably eventually his marriage for a mid-level government job trying to prevent terror attacks. In light of what eventually happened on 9/11 it is very discouraging.
Brian Eshleman
I enjoyed this book as a reminder that trouble with terrorism did not start on 9/11 and that self-sacrificing heroes, known and unknown, are used for the security we can so easily take for granted. Looking at this world through the author's eyes, I think this book is somewhat impacted by his stiff personality and at least slight trend toward self-aggrandizement. At least the occasional Kennedyesque self-deprecation that he took his job seriously and not himself would have gone a long way.

The sec
...more
Cindy
Terrific book! Gives lots of examples of Fred's work life. None of them go on & on for 1/2 the book - a good thing. Am so thankful for Fred and the men and women like him who are passionate (and are or have been so incredibly dedicated) about out USA and protecting its citizens and our freedom. Very, very interesting information too.
Jim
An interesting foray into the dark world of counterintelligence by a member of the DSS. They protect US diplomats and embassies, as wel as visiting dignitaries, and Burton was on the groundfloor of antiterrorist activities. It scares you when you see how ill-equipped we were to handle the emerging terrorist threats. This book focuses mostly on the 80s and early 90s: the hostage crisis in Lebanon, the Libyans, the assassination of Pakistani leader Zia, Lockerbie, and the first WTC bombing, and th ...more
Emma Fox
I've recently decided that I am abandoning the book Ghost by Fred Burton. I made this decision for a few reasons. It was mainly because of the confusion I got from reading this book. Maybe it's the author, maybe it's the story, I didn't understand what was happening in the book for the majority of the time. While this book seemed very interesting at first, once I learned it was a book about counterterrorism, I did lose some interest. This topic isn't something I would want to read about. So afte ...more
J
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.

Non-fiction but well written (apparently without ghost writer) account of a career in U.S. government surveillance and "HUMINT" (jargon for human intelligence).

Covers some key events in recent history ('88 downing of plane bearing Pakistan's Zia, first bombing of WTC in '93).

Not too long or too technical. Provides fascinating fundamentals of the the national security spy industry. Shows the industry's evolution into the computer age.

I really appreciated that author Fred Bur
...more
Andrew
An interesting look at the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). We always hear about the CIA, FBI, and even the Secret Service, but the DSS gets no press even though they operate in every country we have diplomatic ties to and with in the USA. Had Some insights into tradecraft such as how to stairstep to avoid surveillance, but nothing too enlightening. Additionally, the book seemed to have no climax and wasn't going anywhere as far as story. Then it kind of abruptly ended with the funeral of the ...more
Nadir
This book is interesting for a couple of reasons, one of which is that the author is from the State Department's security service, rather than the FBI or the CIA. In that there is a unique perspective.

The book actually focuses on the pre-9/11 efforts to combat terrorism, and so takes us back to the days of American hostages in Lebanon, Libya and Iran's state-sponsored efforts, and in the author's opinion, some Soviet efforts against the Pakistanis. While not earth-shattering in any respect, the
...more
Kevin Hanks
Excellent book and very well written. It made me grateful for guys like him: people who put the safety of us "average citizens" as their top priority. It was fascinating to hear accounts of big international events like Iran Contra, the '93 bombing of the WTC, and the hunting and capturing of terrorist leaders from a man on the front lines and "in the weeds". His writing style is easy to follow and enjoyable. I've been getting Stratfor reports now for years, so I've read plenty of his writing. I ...more
John Barth
Poorly written; some great behind the scenes details on the Lockerbee bombing and investigation but meh.
Joseph
I enjoyed most of this book, a memoir by a former Diplomatic Security Service Agent. Mr. Burton writes in the crisp clear voice of someone who has been there done that and has the T-shirt to prove it.

In highlighting his career Mr. Burton adds depth to my memories of the newspaper coverage of those events but nothing that is really new. The downfall of the book is the last few chapters. In those chapters he falls into that seemingly all to common complaint the 'Bureaucracy' hinder us.

Not a must
...more
Tom Kammerer
Intriguing, worthwhile read if only for the handful of behind the scenes stories
Logan
Cool story, too bad it was embellished to make him look cool. Poser.
Nikki
The writing style of this book is dry at times but the information it contains is very worthy of being read. It is so easy to be critical of the threat assessment processes that we hear about on the news. We grumble about the inconveniences caused us because of security screenings at airports. When the stark reality is that these hard working individuals are expected by us to be 'all knowing' and to catch terrorists before they are able to disrupt our lives. I can't imagine the stress of living ...more
Amro
Excellent construction and storytelling!
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